LONDON, Dec. 20 (Xinhua) — Another 35,928 people in Britain have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 2,040,147, according to official figures released Sunday.

The coronavirus-related deaths in Britain rose by 326 to 67,401, the data showed.

Earlier Sunday, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned that the new strain of COVID-19 is “out of control” in Britain, urging Britons to behave as if they already have the virus, especially in areas under the new Tier Four restrictions.

“It (the new strain) is an enormous challenge, until we can get the vaccine rolled out to protect people. This is what we face over the next couple of months,” he told Sky News.

“Everybody, particularly people in Tier Four areas, needs to behave as if they might well have the virus — that is the only way we are going to get it under control,” he added.

“This is a deadly disease, we need to keep it under control, and it has been made more difficult by this new variant.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday announced a new Tier Four of coronavirus restrictions for London and other parts of England to combat an alarming surge in infections linked to the new virulent strain.

The planned relaxation of coronavirus rules for Christmas is scrapped for a large part of southeast England, and cut to one day for rest of the region, Johnson said at a virtual press conference at Downing Street.

From Sunday morning, London, the South East and East of England moved into Tier Four restrictions, which require residents in those areas to stay at home, with limited exemptions. People are also urged to work from home when they can, and should not enter or leave Tier Four areas.

Meanwhile, non-essential retails and indoors gyms must close. The restrictions will last for two weeks and will be reviewed on Dec. 30.

England was previously under a three-tier system. To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Germany, Russia and the United States are racing against time to develop coronavirus vaccines.